Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

ALEXANDER  VO3tf  HUMBOLBT.                 213
crocodile lies with open jaws, immovable like a rock,
sometimes perched on by birds. With its tail coiled
round the stem of a tree., the tiger-spotted boa lies
watching on the shore, sure of its prey. Darting
suddenly forward, it seizes at a bound the young bull
or the weaker game, and forces its prey, coated with.
slime, down its swelling throat. But when, beneath
the horizontal rays of the never-clouded sun, the
burnt-up grass has fallen into dust, then the parched
soil gapes as if it were agitated by tremendous earth-
quakes. Like roaring waterspouts, contrary gusts *bf
dust-clouds rise eddying funnel-shaped; a dull straw-
coloured demilight shines over the desolated ground
from the apparently lowering sky ; the horizon dimi-
nishes, the steppe shrinks, like the traveller's courage.
The hot dust which floats in the misty veiled atmo-
sphere increases the oppressive, ill-odoured heat.
While the animals in the. icy north  are frozen by
the  cold, the crocodile   and   the  boa   slumber here
motionless, buried  deep in   the   soil.    The   drought
brings death to all, and the  deceitful mirage of the
waving  water  pursues the thirsting.    Enveloped in
thick clouds  of dust, and   tormented by a burning
thirst, the horses and bulls wander about, the latter
roaring loudly in their anguish, the  former snuffing
the wind with outstretched nostrils, to  discover the
vicinity  of a  not   entirely-evaporated   ditch  in   the
moisture of the breeze.    And,, even \\hen the coolness
of the long night succeeds the burning heat of the
day,  the horses and herds cannot enjoy a moment of
repose.    Immense bats, vampire-like, suck their blood
while they sleep, and claw themselves on to their backs^
where they produce festering sores, in which a host of
stinging insects house.   When, after the long drought,
the beneficent rainy season  commences, the scene is
suddenly changed ; the   deep blue of the unclouded
sky grows paler, and at night one scarcely perceives
the faint space in the sign of the southern cross.    The
gentle phosphorescent glimmer of the Magellan clouds
is extinguished, and even the signs of the Eagle and